NEW YORK — Yankees-Orioles. Playoffs. Disputed home run to rightfield. Yankees win.
CC Sabathia and his New York teammates saw Nate McLouth's long drive called foul by a slim margin — hello, Jeffrey Maier — and then hung on to defeat Baltimore 3-1 Friday night in the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series.
With struggling third baseman Alex Rodriguez benched, the Yankees advanced to the AL Championship Series against the Tigers, starting tonight.
"It is still a long way to go," Sabathia said. "I still got hopefully three or four more starts. So the job is not done yet."
Sabathia pitched a four-hitter, wriggling out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. It was his first career postseason complete game.
Yet it was another piece of history that this game evoked. Baltimore again was stung on a close play in rightfield, echoing what happened at the old Yankee Stadium in the 1996 ALCS.
This time, with the Orioles trailing 1-0 in the sixth, McLouth sent a 3-and-1 pitch deep down the line. Eyes turned to rightfield umpire Fieldin Culbreth, who waved foul with both arms.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter asked for a video review, and five of the umpires examined the images. When they came back onto the field about two minutes later, they didn't make any signal, meaning the original call stood. McLouth struck out on the next pitch, ending the inning.
"I saw it go to the right of the pole," Culbreth said. "There is netting there, and it didn't touch the netting. It did not change direction," he added, indicating he did not think the ball grazed the pole, which would have made it fair and a home run.
Added crew chief Brian Gorman: "We saw the same thing on the replay. There was no evidence to overturn the decision."
"I knew when I was running down the line, kind of looking at it, I knew it was going to be really, really close," McLouth said. "It started off fair, and it was just hooking a little bit. I thought it was foul just in game speed. A couple of people mentioned it might've ticked the pole, but he was way closer than I was and I was satisfied after they went down and looked at the replay."
That's the way Yankees rightfielder Nick Swisher saw it.
"I didn't see any redirection," he said. "If it had hit, I would have been the first to know."
Steven Ellis, a fan from Queens, caught the ball with his Yankees cap in the second deck.
"It was foul all the way, never hit the pole," he said.
A stadium usher who wouldn't give his name, however, said he saw the ball glance off the pole.
In 1996, the 12-year-old Maier reached over the wall above rightfielder Tony Tarasco and deflected Derek Jeter's fly ball. Umpire Richie Garcia called it a home run, which tied the score at 4 in the eighth, and the Yankees went on to win in the 11th.
"Just watching at home, I promise," Maier, now a grown man, texted the Associated Press after Friday's play.
Sabathia defeated the Orioles for the second time in six days, Raul Ibanez hit a go-ahead single in the fifth off Jason Hammel and Ichiro Suzuki added an RBI double in the sixth. Curtis Granderson boosted the lead to 3-0 with a homer in the seventh.
Sabathia, now 4-0 in his past eight postseason starts, didn't allow an extra-base hit, struck out nine and walked two. "This is what you play for," he said.
Sabathia took a one-hit shutout into the eighth but allowed Matt Wieters' leadoff single and Manny Machado's walk. Mark Reynolds struck out, and Lew Ford hit an RBI single.
Robert Andino hit a bouncer to the third-base side that Sabathia gloved, but Eric Chavez was charging and left third uncovered and Sabathia's throw to second was late, leaving the bases loaded. McLouth struck out, and Sabathia escaped when J.J. Hardy hit a slow bouncer to shortstop that Jeter handled.
Sabathia then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finish up in 121 pitches.
For Baltimore, which beat Texas in the first AL wild-card playoff, it was a disappointing ending to a renaissance season. The Orioles went 93-69 to end a streak of 14 losing seasons.
"It's been about as much fun as I have had in the big leagues watching how they play the game every day, the standard they held themselves to and the way they raised the bar in Baltimore with each other," Showalter said.